One-year-old George Henry Mendoza died this date, January 20th, in 1847 of Whooping Cough and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. The child was the son of 17-year-old Louisa Mendoza, a single mother, who was employed as a domestic day worker, according to the 1847 African American Census and the 1850 Federal Census. This small family lived in a 10’x10′ room at 8 Adam Street for which Ms. Mendoza paid $2 a month. Records also report that she could read and write and that she did not attend religious services. There are no records indicating who the child’s father might have been.
“Young Negro Woman”
From 1847 through 1848, a total of 154 Philadelphia children died from Whooping Cough.
Three years after her child died, Ms. Mendoza is listed in the 1850 Federal Census as a live-in domestic for a wealthy merchant family in center city Philadelphia.
The twenty-month-old son of Charles and Mary A. Slubey* died this date, October 30th, in 1848 of Pneumonia and was buried at Bethel Burying Ground. William (23) worked as a laborer earning $5/week and Mary (23) was employed as a laundress who took in wash and ironing according to the 1847 African American Census. By 1850 William was employed as a waiter. The 1850 Federal Census lists his birthplace as New Jersey. Mary A. was born in Rhode Island.
The Slubey family paid $5/month for a room in a house on Marriott’s Lane. This room was home to 7 people (6 females and Mr. Slubey) after his son died. There appears to be an older female who was “helpless.” Probably the mother of William or Mary who was an invalid. After the baby’s death, Mary would give birth to a baby girl (Anna) one year later.
Marriott’s Lane was in what is now know as the Italian Market area of south Philadelphia.
The Slubey family lived on the 400 block Marriott’s Lane (red arrow) now known as Montrose Street. According to the 1848 African American Census, there were 35 other African American families listed on the same street. Their home was only several blocks from Bethel Burying Ground (red diamond).
*There are numerous different spelling of the families last name. I used the most common, however in the 1838 City Directory the family name is spelled “Sedler.” Other census records show “Sulbey” and “Slaby.”
This is the legal document that was signed by the attorneys for Richard Allen and the original trustees of Mother Bethel when they purchased the property for the burying ground in April of 1810. Somewhere along the line the document was stolen and eventually resurfaced in a North Carolina flea market where it was purchased! It was donated to the Smithsonian several years ago by the daughter of the woman who acquired it. (Personal communications between myself, the Smithsonian and the donor.)
On April 28, 1810 the Reverend Richard Allen and the trustees purchased a plot of land for $1,600 to be used as a cemetery not only for congregants, but for any Black man, woman or child that wanted a respectable Christian burial; as opposed to an unmarked grave in a potter’s field.
October 10, 1914 “Pencil Pusher Points” column of Black journalist William Carl Bolivar in the Philadelphia Tribune.
In 1823 Rev. Richard Allen wrote that Bethel Church had spent between $1,200 and $1,500 in charitable relief for those who could not afford to pay for a burial on Queen Street.*
*Richard S. Newman, Freedom’s Prophet, p.150.
The above is the original “Indenture” or sale agreement for the purchase of the Bethel Burying Ground on April 10, 1810 by Richard Allen and the trustees of Bethel AME Church. The document is owned by the Smithsonian Institute and will be exhibited at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening on the National Mall in 2015. The document will be shown along with Harriet Tubman’s shawl, Nat Turner’s Bible, a Tuskegee Airmen fighter plane, Emmett Till’s coffin and an original slave cabin from Edisto Island, South Carolina. (Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian Institue.)
For a larger photo of the document please click on Smithsonian Document II